You know that the Flat season is turning into the home straight when the bookmakers start offering odds on next year's first two Classic winners, but there was surely a touch of irony in their response to the victory of Redback in the featured Solario Stakes here yesterday. After the big players had set out their stalls last weekend, shortening the 2,000 Guineas favourite, Johannesburg, even further and installing Gossamer as market leader for the 1,000 Guineas after their successes, Coral kept Richard Hannon's two-year-old at a distinctly disdainful 50-1 for the first colts' Classic, while William Hill and Victor Chandler were only a shade less lukewarm in trimming Redback to 33-1 from 50-1.
The response might well have been different had the Group Three Solario unfolded more in line with the anticipated scenario, which ostensibly gave a couple of likely sorts a chance to get on to the leader-board in the ante-post stakes. Dulcet Spear, a Sheikh Mohammed-David Loder entrant with all the clout that this association accrues, was a clear early-morning favourite. But there were bullish noises coming from the connections of Mr Sandancer, whose fourth to Naheef at Goodwood was held to be good form, while Asheer's second to Sir Michael Stoute's Comfy in the Acomb Stakes at York was reckoned to be even better.
All three featured to the fore in the betting, but at the end of the race, only Asheer could get into the frame, struggling into third behind the 14-1 winner Redback. To be fair, the betting market had already told us that Dulcet Spear could not win, as he drifted out from 7-2 to an uneasy 9-2. Wins in a four-runner race at Southwell and a five-runner contest at Newbury were deemed not quite good enough.
As the race unfolded, Doc Holiday got out quickly from stall two and was able to join Redback on the fence after a furlong or so. Redback, expertly ridden by Jimmy Fortune, allowed Doc Holiday to give him a lead and then, as they joined the straight, Fortune steadily increased the tempo, daring anybody to challenge.
Doc Holiday was seen off and, though Dulcet Spear had clear sight and plenty of time to garner a run, he folded almost as soon as Frankie Dettori asked for his effort. While the pack fought out the minor placings among themselves, with Tholjanah belatedly getting into the race to take second, Redback was easing down for a four-length victory.
Hannon, who was very much at home on this Variety Club Day thanks to his early musical exploits with Sixties pop group The Troggs, conceded that the "14-1 had looked a generous price this morning, but I didn't have the brains to do anything about it".
Hannon had taken this race last year with King's Ironbridge, who went on to win the Craven Stakes this spring, before being removed from the yard after his controversial run in the 2,000 Guineas. Redback looks set to stay, having now won three of his eight races in his two-year-old season.
"He'll go for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster now," the trainer added. Although he expressed admiration for this son of Mark Of Esteem, it would not be a big surprise if the stable has one or two better runners for the autumn trials.
The Listed Atalanta Stakes offered a timely reminder of the pitfalls to anyone nursing Classic hopes, consisting as the field did of several three-year old-fillies who had dallied with the big time and failed to make it – any resemblance to the grisly parade of Variety Club "celebrities" during the afternoon was, of course, completely unintentional. For the likes of Sayedah (nowhere in the 1,000 Guineas), Foodbroker Fancy and Candice (both nowhere in the Oaks), this was a belated chance to make a name for posterity, but, once Intrepidous had bagged the fence and set off for home, they were all left struggling.
Intrepidous is at least improving, and had an excuse for her last poor run, having suffered an over-reach at Ascot. Her trainer, Brian Meehan, smiled afterwards: "I'm delighted with her, because she'll come on again now. I have a few plans for her in my head, but I'll have to have a think first."Reuse content